Chacayes hydropower project receives Environmental Initiative of the Year Award

Pacific Hydro’s 111-MW Chacayes project was given the Environmental Initiative of the Year Award during the International Tunnelling Awards in Hong Kong.

This award, hosted by the UK’s New Civil Engineer and Ground Engineering magazines, recognizes the innovative environmental initiatives implemented during construction of this run-of-river plant in Chile.

The Chacayes plant in Chile’s Alto Cachopoal Valley was officially opened in October 2011 and represents an investment of more than US$450 million. It generates enough electricity to supply more than 300,000 Chilean homes and its operations will abate more than 340,000 tons of greenhouse gas pollution every year, according to a press release.

The innovative environmental initiatives for the Chacayes project include:
— Use of low-height intakes instead of large dams, in line with Kyoto Protocol standards;
— Tunnelling work using a tunnel boring machine to minimize environmental impacts;
— Continuous monitoring of the native fauna during construction and operation;
— Implementation of a community management plan to anticipate, avoid or mitigate social impacts and manage complains in neighboring rural and urban areas;
— Development of a nursery for reforestation, which was fully managed by community members and allowed the production of about 400,000 native plant and trees;
— Construction of a 66-kV power line to allow the supply of electricity from another run-of-river hydro project, which minimized the use of diesel generators; and
— Construction of a 2.6 km-long tunnel instead of a free-flow canal to connect the two intakes and minimize impacts on a national reserve.

Pacific Hydro has hydro, wind, solar and geothermal projects at varying stages of development, construction and operation in Australia, Brazil and Chile. Chacayes if the first of six run-of-river stations Pacific Hydro will build in the valley. Pacific Hydro owns about 73% of Chacayes, while Italian constructor Astaldi owns the remainder.

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